The McCain Campaign’s Messaging Has Become A Mess

When you’re running a presidential campaign, you hit your opponent’s weaknesses, respond to attacks, etc., etc., but you always need to keep a central narrative in mind. What is that core message you want voters to keep in mind about you and your opponent when they step into the voting booth?

For McCain, prior to selecting Sarah Palin, it was, “McCain is an experienced leader who puts country first, above party. Obama, on the other hand, is a complete novice who has gotten to where he is by being more of a celebrity than a politician.” A shorter version would be “McCain: Experienced, country first. Obama: Clueless celebrity.”

Since then, McCain has gotten away from the experience message and as a consequence, the campaign has started to slip in the polls despite the fact that Sarah Palin has added a lot of excitement to the ticket.

This bailout crisis plays into this theme perfectly but the McCain campaign, for reasons that escape me, has completely bungled their response to it.

Their longer message should be something akin to this:

Back in 2005, John McCain was experienced enough to try to fix this issue while novices like Barack Obama didn’t even realize there was a problem. If they had listened to John McCain back then, it would have saved the taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars. So, since this crisis has the potential to affect everyone in the country, including you, your family, and your children — and it is going to stretch into the next administration, whom do you want dealing with it? A guy like McCain, who has seen it all and done it all or a wet-behind-the-ears rookie like Obama, who has been getting advice from the guys at Fannie Mae who were partially responsible for the problem in the first place?

Their shorter message should be more like this:

“You can’t vote ‘present’ in a crisis, so when a big decision that affects the financial future of you and your children comes up, do you trust John McCain or Barack Obama to deal with it?”

If people are thinking, “The next President is going to have to make some big decisions. Whom do I trust to handle it?” on November 4th, then Barack Obama is going to lose. But, time is short and the race is close, so the McCain campaign cannot afford to keep up the undisciplined display we’ve seen from them since the GOP Convention.

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